Theatre

‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’: A Review

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe, hell, I haven’t even been to Edinburgh. I’d love to, but it’s not exactly cheap, but that’s the great thing about being in London. Since coming here, I’ve been able to experience theatre and stand up at local comedy nights and festivals. Most recently, I was invited along to see ‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’ at the Catford Fringe starring Anthem’s very own Courtney McMahon.

Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an impressive debut piece from the Ghosted Ink arts collective featuring spoken word, karaoke and dancing. It aims to bring a story from a working class family into the light where it belongs, and it is lovely. Watching Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an experience comparable to catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or perhaps even better, meeting someone for the first time and learning about their life.

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In the lead, Courtney doesn’t take on a character that’s been made up or fictionalised; Courtney plays herself. She, along with the rest of the team at Ghosted Ink, take you by the hand and ask you to step inside for a moment, and to listen to one woman’s tale. I really appreciated this piece for such an emphasis on pure storytelling, yet simultaneously for not being afraid to get creative with it. The set design was simplicity at its finest with props evoking both laughter and sadness, yet never taking away from the story being told.

Courtney walks the audience through selected moments of her own childhood, working you through a set of themes that include loss, confusion and anger. We learn about her siblings and mum, and we experience as many highs as we do lows as she takes us on a trip down memory lane.

“Layers and layers and layers and layers of nostalgia” she yells from the floor of her childhood bedroom, and layers of nostalgia is exactly what Beige Walls is. I didn’t live this life, and there are aspects of her life I couldn’t even begin to understand having not experienced them myself, but the brilliance comes from just that word – nostalgia.

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Nostalgia means a remembrance of something that never was, so we have a habit of using it to refer to our childhoods when we think about the presents under the tree at Christmas or the simple games we used to play with friends. Courtney remembers these things hand in hand with fleeting moments of reality. She discusses the great and terrible moments of living with her sister and I laughed. I laughed because I understood and have shared a room with a sister. It’s small moments like this that transferred her very own and very personal nostalgia onto the audience. An audience who were only too grateful to join in and were laughing from start to finish.

Like all good theatre (in my wholly uneducated opinion), Beige Walls doesn’t keep you down for too long. Though there are several times of anger, disappointment and grief, it is not long before Courtney’s pink hair and glittery eyes are up again, singing Wham or dancing to The Ketchup Song.

The team at Ghosted Ink did an absolutely terrific job with Beige Walls, and created a totally new experience for me. It was a pleasure to sit down somewhere new for 45 minutes and to witness a life story play out in the way they have pulled this piece together.

Four stars for Beige Walls & Navy Sofas!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink

You can stay in the loop with all things Ghosted Ink via the following links:
Instagram – @ghostedink
Twitter – @Ghostedink_Arts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GhostedInkArts 
Website – https://ghostedinktheatre.wixsite.com/ghostedinkac  (best viewed on desktop)

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A Space of One’s Own

In many creative industries, as well as in the wider world, women are not encouraged, but are actively discouraged from taking up space. When you don’t see women like you, or in fact any women at all, in mainstream media, it can be hard to convince yourself to take up that space. Taking up space is both physical and metaphorical here; if society expects you to be thin and petite, then being anything other than that feels wrong. When you are told be quiet, talked over, and interrupted, speaking up and out can feel hard.

A solution to this is to carve your own space. To create something that is for you and for other women like you to share in. I chatted to some women who have done just this.

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Kate Eveling is the creator of The View From The Other Side, a blog and youtube channel where she talks openly about what it’s like to have Cystic Fibrosis. The videos are incredibly informative, well-made and fun to watch. “CF has always been a negative in my life but creative writing and making videos is something that I thoroughly enjoy – so I thought, why not take that and use it to turn something negative into a positive” she told me.

It’s particularly interesting to explore CF online, because, as Kate puts it “us CFers can’t actually meet face to face because of the risk of giving each other chest infections.” When you can’t meet the people who share in your experience, creating an online space to talk and discuss (and also to explain what it’s like living with your condition to everyone else) is key to changing the conversation around something like CF.

Kate also says that it’s important most of all to keep these videos interesting. “The ‘10 Facts About Me’ video isn’t one where I sit in front of the camera and drone out ten facts. I try to make it energetic and fun but also cringeworthy – it wouldn’t be a Kate Eveling video if it wasn’t cringeworthy right?!”

I ask Kate who inspires her, and she describes how starting A View From The Other Side led her to discover other CFers documenting their lives. “This might sound cheesy but every story I read on their lives was such an inspiration to me. Because they have CF and they are fighting it every day. Simple as that.” It’s clear to see here how one person carving their own space can inspire another.

It’s a space that’s growing as well. Kate recently made a video campaigning for the drug Orkambi, which greatly improves the lives of CF sufferers but which the British Government claim is too expensive.

Find out more about The View From The Other Side.

 

Splint

Another online space for women is Splint, a platform for innovative women looking to network, collaborate and create. “We just kind of decided that it was necessary to provide a space for women to share creative skills, successes and experiences, whilst also championing the women we know and love” co-creator Abbie Claxton tells me. Abbie and her co-founder Syd interview a series of women about what they make and why, and what it’s like to be a woman doing that. “We both know a lot of women doing things that should really be talked about, and we just realised that not a lot of people know about them or what they’re up to. I am always asking people how they got to where they are today, and Splint kind of offers that answer for people.”

The wonderful thing about Splint is the way it’s pure purpose is to champion women doing cool things, and allowing them to share that.

I ask Abbie who inspires her. “The women around us inspire Splint, without them we would have nothing to talk about.” It’s the perfect description of what sharing space means for women today.

Find out more about Splint.

 

Liberate

Laura Mead is an actor and playwright whose debut play Liberate was recently performed at the White Bear Theatre. I asked her about the move from acting into writing.

“There’s a lot more freedom in writing than I personally found in acting. That goes along with flexibility. I also find I’m not having to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ a certain way to write – I just let what I want spill out on paper.” And why is theatre right for this?

“Art forms are so great because they can be enjoyable whilst also showcasing an idea, which may or may not have been in somebody’s minds beforehand. I also think it’s all about HOW you discuss it; Liberate is full of humour – so it means that feminism is being pushed to the front of the discussion whilst a joke is being made.”

I asked Laura what’s next on the agenda.

“Carry on making coffee at my little coffee-shop. Read books. Shove the candles on. And have a bloody large gin. Who knows?!”

Liberate is on for one more night at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

 

Words by Sian Brett with interviews from Laura Mead, Abbie Claxton and Kate Eveling.
Images from The View From The Other Side, Splint and Liberate.

‘Little Eden’: A Review

In a world where reptilians rule and demand daily doses of blood from all of the earth’s citizens, Little Eden tells the story of Jim, an office worker happy to comply with the rules, but who slowly becomes aware that all he has been told about how the world works may be untrue. As secrets unravel, Jim’s safety and life as he knows it hang in the balance.

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The debut production from Neon Peach Theatre is full of slick performances and big characters that make for an enjoyable romp through this world. Although the world could do with being a bit more solidified, and the set up a bit clearer, the fact that there’s a yearning to know more about the world demonstrates that it’s an interesting one. But with a slightly off version of reality, without clarification of what exactly is going on, it can become hard to follow and properly appreciate when the rules of the world start to come undone.

13320957_10154059108736233_6691409396024720195_o[1]An ode to 50’s sci-fi B-movies, Little Eden’s set, sound, and lighting design perfectly encapsulate this little pocket of cinematic history. Although this is a genre rife with joke possibilities, there was definitely the opportunity for more of this within the piece; the set-up is so rich, I was desperate for more gags and over-the-top self-awareness.

Liam Farmer gives a lovely performance as ‘The Vicar’, who narrates the entire show and is bombastic and incredibly fun to watch. Having a narrator on stage continuously can be a difficult thing to balance with the action of a show, but Neon Peach manage it perfectly. A special mention should also go out to Sophie Miller De Vega whose performance as the local nurse never becomes too ‘bimbo’, or dull, but continues to be funny despite her high-heel, pinned-up-hair, white-coat stock character.13316950_10154059108191233_8984799620704698462_o[1]In a small studio space like Camden People’s Theatre, it can be hard to visually engineer a whole world, but the transitions between different spaces and the way that the narrator interplays between it all is one of the strongest facets of the piece.

A work in progress that needs just needs a bit more of everything, Little Eden has potential, strong performances, and most of all, it’s proper good fun.

 

Here’s how to follow Neon Peach Theatre on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neonpeachtheatre/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeonPeachTheatre/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeonPeachInc

 

Words by Sian Brett
Images by Jon Lee
 

 

‘Watermelon’: A Review

“It’s okay if the love of your life is your best friend”

Last Sunday night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Box Room Theatre’s production of ‘Watermelon’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, as part of the Camden Fringe. The play was written by Georgia Green and takes a new and exciting look at the role of female friendships in modern life. Quite simply, Watermelon follows two girls named Abbie (Alexandra Proudfoot) and Zoe (Grace Hudson) on a night out, and a boy they bring home named Joe (Henry Taylor). Yet in just 55 minutes, it manages to introduce so many different layers and subtle hints at a wider life I desperately wanted to know. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved Watermelon (and I don’t even like the fruit). The piece was exciting and dynamic, and ultimately showed the immense skill of Box Room Theatre in all aspects, particularly in the writing, and acting that came from Abbie, Zoe and Joe.

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To me, it felt like a case study of sorts on all the different relationships we have. The cast of Watermelon portrayed fantastic chemistry but were equally all able to hold their own in scenes. A relationship between a girl and the stranger trying to sleep with their best friend is one I hadn’t seen before, but thoroughly enjoyed; the sharp dialogue between the two was constant and entertaining. 

One thing I found most interesting was how it showed the friendship between Abbie and Zoe. A lot of things they showed, I had never experienced with my female friends such as taking boys home or discussing sex lives, but then there were so many things I had experienced a hundred times over, like the classic boy talks or even facial hair bleaching… It got me thinking about how no one female friendship is really the same, and how lovely that is.

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Watermelon is a beautifully open piece of theatre that takes the audience’s hand and invites them to share these experiences. Friendships are complex and can involve so much worry, and so to have a piece of theatre normalise that in front of my very eyes was comforting. 

Although very lively and, at times, laugh out loud funny, the piece also enters into some intense scenes, and some equally tranquil ones too. Fear and paranoia come into play when Abbie’s character goes missing in the night, and the relationship between Zoe and Joe develops immensely through the next half an hour of the play. They took a little slice of everyday reality and gave it so much life and depth; the audience is thrown into the drama with no warning, and it allows you to experience a great deal more emotion whichever way it swings.

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In the above photo, you can see one of my favourite scenes of the play. The team at Box Room have a huge imagination but are clever in their delivery. This simple use of fairy lights and music gave such intelligent lightness to the personal drama Zoe’s character was going through. I genuinely thought about the light sequences for the whole week after, I loved it that much.

Watermelon is an excellent example of young new writing that we should be paying attention to in the theatre. A simplistic but secretly challenging piece that is dotted with feminist quandaries most of us face on a regular basis (but perhaps aren’t as brave as Zoe when it comes to resolution). There’s so much to discover and explore that it’s hard not to love.

Four Stars for Watermelon!

 

You can follow Box Room Theatre on social media, and keep up to date with all the lovely events they host (enough to satisfy all your comedy and theatre needs)!

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Box Room Theatre

‘Colder Water’: A Review

Sunday afternoons for me are usually spent aimlessly engaging with whatever cheap dialogue is available on Netflix. Yet I was lucky enough to be invited by Antonym Theatre to watch their latest piece Colder Water, directed by Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska, and 2016 Edinburgh Fringe success ‘TWIX’, directed by Cara Withers and Molly Evans.

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Out of the New Cross bubble, and with a £4.65 Voddy and Cranberry, I was ready to absorb the works of Antonym Theatre’s Double Decker: ‘Colder Water’ and ‘TWIX’. Ogden’s writing makes you walk in the characters shoes; no matter if those shoes are pinchy, floppy, or relatively comfortable, I was tying the laces of empathy as I went. Since finishing my second year of studying Theatre Arts, I turn to one of my favourite quotes to best describe pieces such as Colder Water and Twix.

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Laurie Ogden’s work may not focus on the lives of 19th century Russians, but it does focus on employing subtlety. Supported by lyrical monologues and passive-aggressive characters which allows her pieces to act as broken glass to present a unique glint into ordinary lives.  The premier of Colder Water was essentially an extract of an awkward, yet needed conversation between four individuals dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Colder Water’s subtly allows the audience to uncover that there is more to the situation than the conversation currently offers. Ogden explores our society’s extremely problematic values when it comes to dealing with sexual assault; “What were you wearing?”, “How much did you drink?”, “You were asking for it”, “You’re making it up”. All while sexual predators such as Brock Turner and Andrew Picard have the justice system wrapped around their privileged fingers. There is no point denying that the justice system prioritises their voice and the future of the attacker over the victim’s.

Colder Water’s depth of field focuses on Ally (Alice Brittain), Louise (Jess Reed), and Ellie’s (Laurie Ogden) internal perspectives of female connection, layering these women with intense humanity and interest. Ogdens depth of field allows Colder Water to artistically show a ‘social template’ wherein the attacker’s dialogue and privilege is removed. This template is something our society and justice system should be employing.

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In addition to Ogden’s use of subtlety, she liberates and showcases a lesbian dialogue between Ally and Ellie. Other than the series Orange is the New Black or the video game Life Is Strange, I’ve found that most theatre, art, or television I’ve engaged with is (mostly) heterosexual, or includes a gay-male character. Colder Water introduced me to a lesbian dialogue on stage. It was heart-warming to watch as the piece didn’t focus on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, but rather the everyday lives of a couple, which I found enlightening to watch. Especially Knowing that artists such as Ogden are composing work about homosexual experience without a political drive – in regards to their rights. Again, Colder Water serves as a template for showing that we’re in the 21st century. Lesbian relationships are more than acceptable and shouldn’t be excluded from art and theatre.

Overall, I think Colder Water is pretty neat and has potential to rock the feminisms world! A massive well done to Laurie Ogden and Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska and the cast/crew of Antonym Theatre! I give you five stars! (literally)

Peace, Love and Cacti

Courtney McMahon

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p.s. not all dialogue on Netflix is cheap

 

 

Words by Courtney McMahon
Images courtesy of quotefancy, Antonym Theatre, Theatre N16 and Courtney McMahon

Growing Up

I’ve been having a bit of a freakout. I’m nearing the end of my degree, my time at university is nearly over, and soon I will have to get a real job and be a real person and live my life without an academic structure (I know, woe is me).

I think a lot about ‘real life’ and ‘real jobs’ like I’m some sort of infantilised child, but the thing is, it just seems so unachievable. Aside from the student debt, the rising house prices that mean that really I’m just never going to buy a house, the lack of jobs available in the arts, aside from all that, certain people just seem to have their lives together and unfortunately, I don’t think I’m one of them.

And the thing is, it’s very easy to beat yourself up about that.

There’s been a shift, among everyone I know recently. They just seem much more… grown up. They’re dedicating time to working hard and looking after themselves and making dinners and sleeping properly. And I’m starting to do it too, a bit. Sleeping proper nights and waking up before 11 am and leaving the house before 9 on some mornings. Noticing when my mood drops, and assessing why, and doing the right things about it. I even went running. For a week. We can’t have everything.

And I think that’s the key thing – you can’t do everything. You can’t be this person who exercises and sleeps and eats healthily and has a buzzing social life and a healthy mental state and gets good grades. And that’s okay. If I learned anything from a combination of CBT and a very good Simon Stephens playwriting talk, it’s that success does not equal happiness. I thought it did, for a long time. I thought that if I did a million things then that was success, because I was running myself ragged and loudly telling everyone how tired I was. That I had to be the best, making the best things, and having other people tell me how good they were. But self-validation is so much better. Letting yourself fail, or get it wrong, or even, to just doing nothing is one of the kindest things you can do to yourself if you’re happy doing it.

It’s particularly easy to not feel good enough when you’re constantly living your life through a screen, constantly comparing your reality to the social media posts of everyone having a nice time, the Instagram stories of what you wish you were doing, those people who are 5 years ahead of you in both career and life-planning and got their play on at the Royal Court aged 21 (I am not bitter, I promise). But comparison is dangerous, because it’s easy to while your days away wishing you were someone else, without fully appreciating who you are, that your hair looks great, and that you are great fun to go to the pub with.

I think that’s being a grown up. Learning to stop constantly punishing yourself about not being grown up. And I’m getting there. I might even start running again.

 

Words by Sian Brett.

 

 

 

‘Heroes’: A Review

Picture this: you’re sitting inside your University exam hall, your clothing style has changed, your hair is longer (or shorter!), and you’ve already planned your “We made it through our degree!!!” house party. But then suddenly, it hits you. The past three years have flown past quicker than you imagined.

You, sitting there, paused mid-sentence. The sudden fear of having to enter adulthood strikes: getting a job, paying off your debt, potentially get married or having children, then watching your children continue the ongoing circle we call life. Your future flashes before your eyes quicker than you can finish that sentence you paused on. As you ponder your existence during a quarter-life crisis, you could say you’d like to become a superhero.

“Student Finance cannot cover a Superhero, let alone a degree!”

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Heroes is a play written & directed by Sian Brett, co-directed by Frankie Jolly, and is a part of Box Room Theatre Company and Goldsmiths Drama Society, 2016.

Every university student would relate to those first paragraphs. I know I’ve most definitely had similar thoughts on numerous occasions. University is not just about improving our fields of study, but our development as a person! So the idea of leaving this stressful-Utopian establishment, is quite frankly, frightening.

Heroes is a play which presents the contrasting pessimistic and optimistic anxieties of two third year English students sitting their final exam. Sian Brett, a name you’d be familiar with if you’re an Anthem regular, has voiced common, yet silent concerns among students such as:

  1. Am I spending more time at the pub than completing my University bucket list?
  2. Are our degrees even worth getting a part time job just to pay disgustingly overpriced rent? Then, having to scrape together the little time we have between lectures, societies, and reading to actually live our lives.
  3. Should I study a Masters Degree to continue my “University” experience? Or in reality, am I just delaying my entrance into adulthood??
  4. Am I going to be as extraordinary as I originally planned to be? Will even I make a significant change in the world? Because at the moment, we’re all uncooked potatoes.

“You’re a vile creature, you’re a student

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One of my biggest fears in life is not being remembered. I want to be extraordinary, and these exact thoughts are expressed in Heroes. As an audience member I was able to tag along with the characters’ search for an understanding of our life and how we contribute to social progression. Heroes welcomed me to the idea that anybody could change the world. No matter how big or small the situation is, you don’t need powers to be a hero.

You can’t talk about Heroes without mentioning the fabulous cast members Niamh O’Brien and Jazmin Qunta. The relationship between the two characters is organic; I didn’t see a performance, I saw life. I saw me and my home-dawg (hi Nicole) back in Loring Hall, eating Thai food while discussing our future….or watching High School Musical 2. The point I’m making here is that Heroes’ self deprecating nature allows the audience to chuckle their tits off whilst still projecting themselves onto the characters. It’s theatre which holds your hand and says to you: ‘Hey man! You’re not alone with this… I love you and everything, but your palm is really sweaty right now’.

Heroes It’s probably the most heartwarming downer I’ve ever experienced in theatre! The sooner we realise that all art is about death, the happier we’ll be in life.

To see more from Box Room Theatre, click here:
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Because I loved Heroes so much I’m giving it 5 Stars! (My dog is called Star and she is great)

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Words by Courtney McMahon
Images courtesy of Courtney McMahon and Box Room Theatre